Poets House: Rooms Are Never Finished: The Legacy of Agha Shahid Ali – April 21

aghashahidali
April 21, 2017 – 7:00PM
Poets House, 10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282

Kazim Ali, Rita Banerjee, Amanda Golden, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Patricia O’Neill, and Sejal Shah examine the life and work of Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001). Celebrated for bringing the ghazal into English, Ali’s work explores cultural ties and divisions, the enduring qualities of love and friendship, and the difficulty of maintaining both. Admission: $10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poets House members.

The Reader as Critic: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about South Asian Literary Theory But Were Afraid to Ask – Rutgers University – April 20

Charulata (dir. Satyajit Ray, 1964)

A Lecture by Dr. Rita Banerjee
Department of African, Middle Eastern, South and South Asian Literatures and Languages

Thursday, April 20 * 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Rutgers University, Academic Building 6010
15 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

The creation hymn from the Rig Veda begins with a series of provocative statements and spiky questions: “There was neither non-existence or existence then…The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe…Whence this creation has arisen…the one who looked down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows – or perhaps, he does not know.” In explaining the origins of the Indus Valley civilization and the universe at large, the Rig Veda’s playful, interrogative style places the burden of understanding and interpretation on the reader. The creative power of the poet, non-dualism, uncertainty, and even atheism are hinted at in these opening lines of the Rig Veda. But what makes this seminal and foundational text of Indic philosophy and oral literature especially interesting is the emphasis it places on the critical distance and interpretive lens of the reader. From the Rig Veda onwards, this gesture towards hermeneutics repeats in canons of South Asian literary theory and literature from texts such as Bharata’s yaśāstra and Kālidāsa’s The Recognition of Śakuntalā in the classical period, to the manifestos and discussions of literary modernisms emerging in Bengali, Hindi, and Indian English little magazines and literatures in the 20th century. In this talk, we will examine why Indic literature continues to place the reader in the role of a critic, translator, debater, or connoisseur. What does placing the reader in the role of the critic convey about South Asian literary theory and intellectual culture? Does the emphasis on the reader as critic reveal the deconstructive, pluralistic, or matrix-like nature of South Asian literary theory? Come join us for a rousing debate and discussion on the structural gestures and intellectual goals of South Asian literary theory.

Rita Banerjee’s poem “Ilha Formosa” feat. in Hyphen Magazine

For the month of March, Hyphen Magazine has featured a new poem by Rita Banerjee entitled, “Ilha Formosa.”  On Banerjee’s poetry, editor Eugenia Leigh writes:

This March—a season of spring, of sloughing off the dead weight of winter and examining our year’s progress—we offer Rita Banerjee’s meditative and magical profile of the “Ilha Formosa” that “knows / more than sulfur and air and water shift / between earth and its beautiful blue fringe—”. This poem quiets the clamor of our blue-lit lives so we can catch the “rhythm of the blood-beat” in the South Pacific. Banerjee teaches us to see what the eye “almost misses”: not only the mountain, but also “your own face grown thick” reflected in that mountain and in the entire natural world around us.  —Eugenia Leigh, Poetry Editor, Hyphen Magazine

You can read Rita Banerjee’s poem, “Ilha Formosafeatured on Hyphen Magazine here.

Spring in Portland, OR Writing Retreat – March 25, 2017 Registration Deadline

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in Portland Writing Retreat will take place from April 22-24, 2017.  While you’re in the home of writers Cheryl Strayed and Ursula K. Le Guin, feel free to go bicycling and explore the terrain, hike, or relax at local cafes for people watching—no matter how you choose to spend your time, this city is full inspiration. We will be staying in the Alberta Arts District during the retreat, an area that is sure to inspire our participants and help them create.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Adam Reid Sexton, Kerry Cohen, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The deadline to apply is March 25th, 2017.

Schedule of Classes:

cww-portland2017schedule

Writing in the Lyric Register (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
In this writing workshop, we will practice writing in the lyric register, expanding our writing into descriptive, poetic prose.  We will look intensively at writing “the moment,” slowing down and unpacking a single moment.  After examining some examples in literature, we will take to writing and revising our own pieces to unlock the lyrical qualities of a single moment.  Our aim will be to pull our readers into the emotionally charged and poetic world of our narratives.

Structuring Your Short Story or Novel (with Adam Reid Sexton)
From the time of Homer to the present day, writers have provided stories with the same basic shape – narrative structure, it’s called.  Regardless of content, the result of that structure is a kind of reading machine that people feel compelled to experience from start to finish.  In this course we learn the elements of classic story structure, as well as how much those elements can be varied without damage to your short-story, novel, or memoir.  Learn how to structure stories so potential readers of your work become actual readers.

Writing Memoir Honestly (with Kerry Cohen)
Annie Lamott famously wrote, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” If only it were that easy! In this course we will examine the many challenges of writing about other people in memoir. We will discuss some anecdotes from memoir authors, address students’ concerns about their own memoirs, and we will complete writing exercises that will allow for practice in writing about ourselves and others honestly and ethically.

Science: Fiction – Building Literary Worlds  (with Rita Banerjee)
In this class, we will explore how the fabric and rules of literary worlds in realist and speculative fiction are created.  By examining the parameters of social and behavioral codes, human interactions and psychology, and the materiality of worlds, we’ll explore that volatile space where truth and lie meet, where conflicts crystallize, and where storytelling disturbs and delights.

Writing the Personal Essay (with Kerry Cohen)
Personal essays allow us to understand one another as fellow humans, to see ourselves in each other. They give us ways to know something in a new way, thereby expanding our understandings of ourselves. They are, in my mind, a key to living a self-examined life; and who wants to live another way? In this course, we will examine select essays by authors for their craft, their purpose, and their effect. Students will brainstorm ideas, write, workshop, and share their own personal essays, resulting in a polished piece by the end.

Playing with Point of View (with Adam Reid Sexton)
What’s the best point-of-view strategy to use when writing a particular work of fiction or creative nonfiction – first-person central, or third omniscient?  Second-person (“you”) – or even first person plural (“we”)?  This course breaks down the complicated, challenging topic of POV in storytelling, employing mini-lectures, in-class exercises, and short readings by contemporary masters like Jeffrey Eugenides and Lorrie Moore, to turn point of view from an obligation into an opportunity.  POV can be fun!

Featured Faculty:

kerrycohen
Kerry Cohen
is the author of 10 books, including the bestselling  Loose Girl:  A Memoir of Promiscuity and Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir, her most recent book, which came out October 2016. Kerry is faculty at the Red Earth Low Residency MFA program and is a practicing counselor. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

adamsextonAdam Reid Sexton teaches writing at Yale University, where he is a Lecturer in the English Department, a Critic on the faculty of Yale’s School of Art, and a Silliman Residential College Fellow.  He has taught writing at Columbia University and the New School, and he has lectured at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, and the University of Alabama, where he delivered the Hudson Strode Lecture in the Age of Shakespeare.  Sexton is the author of Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway and Other Greats, and with a team of graphic artists, he has adapted four of Shakespeare’s tragedies as manga (Japanese-style graphic novels).  His anthology Rap on Rap was acquired by Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research, while Desperately Seeking Madonna is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive.  Sexton’s fiction, essays, and reviews have been published in the Bellevue Literary Review, the Mississippi Review, and Off Assignment, as well as the Boston Phoenix, the New York Times, and the Village Voice.  For four years Sexton curated a reading series at KGB Bar in New York City.  He has been interviewed on writing and literature by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and npr.com, and one of his classes was broadcast on BBC Radio.

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

DianaNormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-­up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Szokolyai’s work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. Szokolyai earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University and her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Connecticut, while she completed coursework at the Sorbonne and research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

applyDeadline: March 25, 2017

Bluestockings presents “A Night with Kali: A Reading by Rita Banerjee” – March 12, 7-9:30 pm

bluestockingsnycPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]

A Night with Kali: A Reading by Rita Banerjee
Bluestockings, 172 Allen Street, NY 10002

Sunday March 12, 2017 * 7:00 – 9:30 pm

Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps, has just been released on Kindle Books and in Print by Spider Road Press. In Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.

“Two novellas stand especially tall: A Night with Kali, by Rita Banerjee, begins with a taxi ride through Kolkata during a monsoon and soon develops into an entertaining story-in-a-story supernatural tale reminiscent of classic Indian literature.  In 136 Auburn Lane, novelist Donna Hillevokes a mysterious Harlem boarding house in the 1930’s, where a down-and-out woman has one final chance to rescue her pitiful existence.” -Gay Yellen

“’A Night with Kali’” by Rita Banerjee was a pair of ghost stores-within stories-within a story, set in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The voice was distinct but unobtrusive and created a cozy familiarity with the narrator. The setting was also particularly vivid, but never got bogged down in exposition – rather, well-placed details sprinkled throughout made me feel like I’d lived in the area all my life. This was my favorite of the four, partly because it was the most upbeat. That may sound strange for a ghost story, but it works.” – MJL

Biography:

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

CWW Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat – February 25, 2017 Registration Deadline

cww-nola2017

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat will take place from March 23-26, 2017, and will coincide with the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.  Known for its Spanish and French architecture, live jazz, cajun food, and street festivals, New Orleans offers an inspirational and one-of-a-kind environment for creative writers. During the retreat, we will be staying in the lovely Algiers Point neighborhood, just a short ferry ride away from the Historic French Quarter.  Our retreat features multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write.  The faculty includes award-winning writers Dipika Guha, Emily Nemens, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The deadline to apply is February 25th, 2017.

applyDeadline: February 25, 2017

Schedule of Classes:

cww-nolaschedule2017

The Art of Storytelling & New Orleans Tour  (with Emily Nemens)
A picture’s worth a thousand words, but what if there’s words with that picture? In this workshop we’ll explore the many intersections of art and writing, by considering poetry, fiction,and criticism about and including visual arts, and then look at our own works that combine language and text. Using prompts from local art and architecture, we’ll explore the range of expression from ekphrasis to graphic narratives, and put our heads together to discover the best means of storytelling for a range of different narratives. Illustration expertise is not required, but a curiosity about visual arts and how they can be employed in literary work is necessary.

Bake-Off (with Dipika Guha)

We will gather in one of the most evocative, haunting cities in the world and together write and read out loud our ‘bake-offs’. A bake-off is a playwriting exercise or writerly dare popularized by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel. The dare is to write a play in a fixed span of time 24 hours in response to a list of shared elements. We will begin with a seminar on Saturday when we’ll visit our playwriting toolbox and look at devices, forms and structures available for our use. At this meeting we’ll choose six elements to include in our writing drawn from the city of New Orleans, seeking inspiration from its architecture, history and myths. After the seminar you will go away and write until the next evening. On Sunday over food and drink, we will read your bake-offs together and celebrate your progress. Bake-offs are not critiqued.

Character Development & the Law of Desire (with Rita Banerjee)

Femme fatales, gumshoe detectives, star-crossed lovers, wicked stepmothers, wise fools, empathetic anti-heroes: dynamic and archetypal characters can be key to making a good story or lyrical piece tick and pulling in the reader deeper into your creative work. In this workshop, we will discuss how dynamic and archetypal characters can help structure stories, propel narratives forwards, and how each character’s desire provides interesting ethical dilemmas and emotional spectrums to narratives and verse. We will learn about the building blocks of creating strong, unforgettable characters, discuss the connection between desire and plot, and learn how playing with persona can help liberate nonfictional stories and lyrical poems. 

Writing in the Lyric Register (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)

In this writing workshop, we will practice writing in the lyric register, expanding our writing into descriptive, poetic prose.  We will look intensively at writing “the moment,” slowing down and unpacking a single moment.  After examining some examples in literature, we will take to writing and revising our own pieces to unlock the lyrical qualities of a single moment.  Our aim will be to pull our readers into the emotionally charged and poetic world of our narratives.

Featured Faculty:

dipikaDipika Guha was born in Calcutta and raised in India, Russia and the United Kingdom. She is the inaugural recipient of the Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Award with the Lark Play Development Center, A Room of Her Own and the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. Her plays include  The Art of Gaman (Berkeley Rep Ground Floor ’16, KILROYS LIST ’16, Relentless Award Semi-Finalist), I Enter the Valley (Theatreworks New Play Festival ’16, Southern Rep New Play Festival‘16), Mechanics of Love (Crowded Fire Theatre, Upcoming: Two by For, NYC) and Blown Youth (Wallflower Theatricals, UK). She is currently working on Yoga Play, a commission for South Coast Repertory Theatre, a translation of Merry Wives of Windsor for Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s PlayOn Project and a play for the McCarter Theatre’s Princeton Slavery Project. Most recently her work has been developed at Playwrights Horizons, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Roundabout Underground, McCarter Theatre’s Sallie B. Goodman Residency, New Georges, Shotgun Players, the Sam French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, Southern Rep, 24 Hour Plays on Broadway and the Magic Theatre amongst others. Dipika is currently a visiting artist at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School and a resident playwright at the Playwrights Foundation. MFA: Yale School of Drama under Paula Vogel.  Dipika will be a Hodder Fellow in Playwrighting at Princeton University from 2017-2018.

emilynemens2

Emily Nemens is coeditor and prose editor of The Southern Review, a literary quarterly published at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her editorial work has been featured in Writer’s Digest, draft: a journal of process, and on LeanIn.org, and her selections from The Southern Review have recently appeared in Best Mystery Writing 2016 and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. She studied art history and studio art at Brown University, and before moving to Louisiana to pursue an MFA in creative writing at LSU, she lived in Brooklyn and worked in editorial capacities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Center for Architecture. Alongside her editorial work, Emily maintains active writing and illustration practices. Her fiction and essays have recently appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and n+1, and she is working on a linked story collection about spring training baseball. As an illustrator she’s collaborated with Harvey Pekar on a Studs Terkel anthology, painted miniature portraits of all the women in Congress, and recently published her first New Yorker cartoon. Follow her at @emilynemens.

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

DianaNormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-­up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Szokolyai’s work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. Szokolyai earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University and her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Connecticut, while she completed coursework at the Sorbonne and research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

applyDeadline: February 25, 2017

Rita Banerjee’s poems “Georgia Brown” and “The Suicide Rag” feat. on Painted Bride Quarterly’s Print Annual & Podcast, “Episode 27: Suicides & Skeleton Jazz”

georgiabrownPainted Bride Quarterly’s podcast, “Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz,” features two new poems from Rita Banerjee.  Here’s is a message from the PBQ Editors:

In the midst of excitedly preparing for AWP 2017, we record this episode in which we discuss two poems by Rita Banerjee, “The Suicide Rag” and “Georgia Brown”

Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on a futuristic dystopian novel about Mel Cassin, a half-Tamil, half-Jewish girl stuck in the middle of a familial crisis and an epic political meltdown, and a collection of essays on race, sex, politics, and everything cool.  A jet-setter at heart, she spends her time between Munich, Germany and the United States.

This week’s discussion both took us back and made sure that none of us would see the world the same way again. With images of breakdancing, gospel choir, and the not-so-innocent Georgia Brown, we were in it. Whether we’re distinguishing jazz from jazz or figuring out what a clapper is, this episode is filled with risky moves.

Here is a sample of Rita Banerjee’s poetry:

Georgia Brown

Harlem had yet to be born,
the globe had not been spun,
but we knew how to whistle,
how to call clappers and skirts on cue:
That summer, we first met Georgia,
she was an echo in four beats,
we learned to hum her story.
Mike played her with a licked reed
but she was all brass, sharp
like an abandoned railroad cutting through
wild wood, and when she took stage,
she made those trombone boys whisper,
“Sweet Georgia, Sweet.”

The Suicide Rag

Billy played ragtime
on the church
organ but we

lunch hour kids,
kept time by another
name.  Behind St. Augustine’s

we learned to hit
the pavement, sound
like an anvil

crack
hammers hitting
steel, Billy playing

skeletons
on the fifth,
we arpeggioed

haloed, froze
on the black
top.  Learning

to cakewalk
This was our
battle—

tar-mat babies
doing handsprung
suicides

for the girls
standing ’round
with knife-like eyes

That’s all
we needed—
a rolling

beat, a firing squad
and schoolyard
skirts

scouring the lot
as we fell
face forward

hands locked
& stiff, the only
thing

that could’ve
come between
us was a kiss.

To here the full discussion of Rita Banerjee’s poetry, listen to the PBQ “Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz,podcast here.

Rita Banerjee & Erik Kennedy discuss the New Jersey, Munich, and Christchurch Writing Scenes and Not Being Born in Golf-wear on The Rumpus

In “The Rumpus Interview with Erik Kennedy,” Rita Banerjee and Erik Kennedy discuss their formative years as young writers in New Jersey, their shared history of editing rival literary magazines in New Brunswick, and what it’s like to be American writers writing in English in the emerging and transformative literary scenes of Christchurch and Munich, respectively. Given the conversation’s local and international scope, the interview offers a playful challenge to the NYC vs. MFA model.  An excerpt from the interview follows below:

Banerjee: The New York–New Jersey metropolitan area is often jokingly referred to as “New Amsterdam.” That is, Jersey and the City are seen as having a radical, Calvinist, open-trade, and open-door vibe. A shadow of Dutch egalitarianism falls over New York and New Jersey. Both places are often seen as being very commercial and capital-focused, but the culture of Jersey and the City seems to be constantly renewed and reevaluated by an influx of people, classes, and narratives bumping into one another. It’s where the old and new, the familiar and the foreign, the seventh-generation American and the recent immigrant are forced to meet because people literally have to share the same sidewalk. And the very proximity of bodies being forced to occupy the same space creates an exciting kind of tension and dialogue between voices and values colliding into one another. So what do you think encapsulates a particularly New Jersey aesthetic?

Kennedy: I’m going to attempt the most New Jersey analogy I can devise. Maybe it’s like the Wildwoods, which, for people who don’t know, are a collection of seaside resort towns just north of Cape May, at the southern tip of the state. So there’s Wildwood proper, which is full of energy, youth, piss and vinegar, a magnet for revelers and revulsion; it can be invigorating, but, let’s face it, it’s also disgusting. And there’s Wildwood Crest, which is sort of family-oriented and sleepy and faintly pious (it’s a dry town and there are no rides or horrible game booths); you’re safe there, but are you really alive? And then there’s North Wildwood, which I don’t think anyone knows or cares all that much about; this represents the baseline, the semi-normal starting condition. These are the New Jersey id, superego, and ego that dwell deep within every native of the Garden State and, in their conflicting ways, inevitably energize such a person’s writing. Fair enough?

Reading the full “The Rumpus Interview with Erik Kennedy on The Rumpus here.

Erik Kennedy’s poems have appeared in (or are forthcoming in) places like Ladowich, Ohio Edit, and Prelude in the US, 3:AM Magazine, Oxford Poetry, and Poems in Which in the UK, and Landfall and Sport in New Zealand. He is the Poetry Editor for Queen Mob’s Teahouse.

Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, Hyphen Magazine, Mass Poetry, Painted Bride Quarterly, Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night(Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, “A Night with Kali” released in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel and book of lyric essays.

AWP Exclusive: Rita Banerjee’s “Writing from the Fringe: Cultivating Writing Communities on Retreats and Abroad” feat. on the WC&C Quarterly

wcc-quarterly

2017 is an exciting year for AWP. We will be holding our 50th AWP Conference & Bookfair this month. Whether you just joined in 2017, or you have been with us for years, thank you for being a part of AWP. We are excited to see what the next fifty years bring.  In this issue, we hear from a Rita Banerjee, who discusses the successes Cambridge Writers’ Workshop has had building community near and far.

–Kenny Lakes, Editor

An excerpt from Rita Banerjee’s essay follows below:

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop (CWW) began as a creative writing community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Formed by graduate students at Harvard University in 2008, the workshop was meant as a forum for fostering communities of dedicated writers and encouraging creative expression in the literary arts. Since the organization’s inception, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop has been all-inclusive and open to all emerging and established writers, first in the Cambridge and Boston area, and now in Brooklyn, Manhattan, across the United States, and also abroad. Since 2008, the organization has been run by directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai.

In 2011, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop expanded to include online creative writing courses and writing retreats. We have participated in the Mass Poetry Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn Lit Crawl, Manhattan Lit Crawl, and the AWP Conference. All writers, from amateurs to professionals, who are looking for a serious writing community, are welcome to join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop.

In 2012, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosted its first writing retreat abroad at the Château de Sacy in Picardy, France, a rural country enclave just forty-five minutes outside of Paris. The focus of the workshop was on “Writing and Eco-Living,” and during our retreat in Sacy, our participants enjoyed fresh meals from the organic potager of the Château de Sacy, daily craft of writing seminars and writing workshops, and outings around Picardy. On our retreats, our instructors and participants have hailed from Australia, the US, the UK, France, Germany, and the Philippines. At our Sacy workshop, one of our participants began writing a poetry collection inspired by gaming and also produced a second manuscript about France, WWII, and the memory of her father. Another participant produced a wonderful series of lyric essays and memoirs on fleet week, public swimming pools, and interracial relationships in 1940s Brooklyn…  Read Rita Banerjee’s full essay here.

CWW Presents: Writers in Resistance – An AWP 2017 Reading – Washington D.C. – February 10

cww-writersinresistance

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs will be hosting its annual writers conference in Washington DC from February 8-11. As in past years, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop will be present at the conference, with a table at the book fair at Table 361-T. There, we will have information about our 2017 writing retreats, our internships, publications, and a ton of other goodies.

We will also be hosting three author signings at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Table 361-T during the AWP 2017 Conference. The schedule for author signings at our table is as follows:

Tim Horvath: Thursday February 9, 1-2 pm
Diana Norma Szokolyai: Friday February 10, 11 am-12 pm
Rita Banerjee: Saturday February 11, 11 am- 12 pm

As per tradition, we will also be hosting a reading during the conference. The CWW will be hosting a reading at Upshur Street Books on Friday February 10, 2017 from 5pm – 6:45 pm. We have ten fabulous readers ready to present their work, including members of our executive board, faculty from our upcoming writing retreats, and some of our CWW friends. Our reading list includes the following:

ritabanerjee-smRita Banerjee
is Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Mass Poetry, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and collection of lyric essays.

beach-jensenJensen Beach is the author of two collections of short fiction, For out of the Heart Proceed, and most recently, Swallowed by the Cold. His stories have appeared A Public Space, the Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He teaches in the BFA Program at Johnson State College, where he is fiction editor at Green Mountains Review. He is also faculty in the MFA Program in Writing & Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. With this family, he lives in Vermont.

 

 

 

 

Anna-Celestrya Carr is a Metis/Anishinaabe artist, filmmaker, writer, dancer and speaker.  She graduated from both the Vancouver Film School and the National Screen Institute’s New Voices program in Canada. While at NSI she created Dreamcatcher: A short dramatic fantasy of Aboriginal mythology.  In 2012 she created Tik-A-Lee-Kick, an honest and candid telling of a young Aboriginal woman’s perspective on the role of the Little People funded by the Video Pool Aboriginal Media Art Initiative. She has previously attended the University of Manitoba School of Art.  Shehas worked for the National Film Board of Canada and Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery.  Anna-Celestrya focuses her creative energy on her Aboriginal roots and on advancing the rights of Aboriginal women in North America. She has worked with many organizations and institutions to promote human rights and peace. The artwork that she is best known for is The Men’s Banner Project. This work is a combination of interactive performance and installation, about which she also lectures.

Alex Carrigan is originally from Newport News, Virginia and currently resides in Upper Marlboro, MD.  He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in print/online journalism and a minor in world cinema.  He is currently an managing intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, as well as a contributing writer for Quail Bell Magazine.  He has written articles for The Commonwealth Times and has had work featured in Luna Luna Magazine. He is also a creative writer and have had work published in Amendment Literary Journal, Life in 10 Minutes, Realms YA Fantasy Literary Magazine, and in Poictesme Literary Journal, of which he was a staff member for four years, two years in which he was deputy editor-in-chief.

tim_horvath_authorphotoTim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction, The Normal School, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. His story “The Understory” won the Raymond Carver Short Story Award, and “The Conversations” earned a Special Mention in the 2014 Pushcart Prize Anthology; he is also a recipient of a Yaddo Fellowship. He teaches in the BFA and low-residency MFA programs at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where he coordinates the Visiting Writers Series. He is currently at work on The Spinal Descent, a novel about contemporary classical composers, as well as a second short story collection.

 

Alexandria-Marzano-Lesnevich_MACD-15-201_414

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s first book, THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, is forthcoming from Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017, as well as from publishers internationally. The book layers a memoir with an investigation into, and recreation of, a 1992 Louisiana murder and death penalty case. For her work on the book, Marzano-Lesnevich received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Other scholarships and fellowships received include those from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Studios at Key West, Vermont Studio Center, and the Alice Hayes Fellowship for Social Justice Writing from the Ragdale Foundation. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, The Rumpus, and the anthologies True Crime and Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, among many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She was educated at Harvard (JD), Emerson College (MFA), and Columbia University (BA) and now teaches at Grub Street, a nonprofit writing center in Boston, and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

emilynemens2

Emily Nemens is coeditor and prose editor of The Southern Review, a literary quarterly published at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her editorial work has been featured in Writer’s Digest, draft: a journal of process, and on LeanIn.org, and her selections from The Southern Review have recently appeared in Best Mystery Writing 2016 and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. She studied art history and studio art at Brown University, and before moving to Louisiana to pursue an MFA in creative writing at LSU, she lived in Brooklyn and worked in editorial capacities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Center for Architecture. Alongside her editorial work, Emily maintains active writing and illustration practices. Her fiction and essays have recently appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and n+1, and she is working on a linked story collection about spring training baseball. As an illustrator she’s collaborated with Harvey Pekar on a Studs Terkel anthology, painted miniature portraits of all the women in Congress, and recently published her first New Yorker cartoon. Follow her at @emilynemens.

img_1590Dena Rash Guzman is a poet born in Las Vegas, Nevada. She moved to Oregon in 2010 where she lived for five years on her family’s remote organic farm in the Sandy River Gorge. While there she launched Unshod Quills, a journal of poetry and art and assisted Jenny Forrester in founding Unchaste Readers, a Portland reading series featuring women and non-binary writers. Her work has appeared in the Rumpus, Ink Node, Luna Luna, the Nervous Breakdown, Gertrude, Literary Orphans, and has been featured on Harriett, the Poetry Foundation blog. Guzman has given readings in cities such as New York, Portland, Shanghai, Seattle and Las Vegas, where her opening night performance launched the Inspire Theater to a packed house. Her work, performances and plays have been nominated for prizes and have won several awards, and her stories and poetry are anthologized worldwide. Dena’s first full length book, the best-selling and critically acclaimed Life Cycle was released by Dog On A Chain Press in 2013. Her second book of poems, Joseph was published in January 2017 and debuted as the number one seller at Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookseller. She resides in Oregon with her family.

DianaNormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-­up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Szokolyai’s work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. Szokolyai earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University and her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Connecticut, while she completed coursework at the Sorbonne and research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

img_20161224_195102_133Leah Umansky is the author of the The Barbarous Century, forthcoming from London’s Eyewear Publishing in 2018. She is also the host and curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC.  Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in such places as, Poetry Magazine, The Journal, Boston Review,  Barrow Street and Magma (UK).  She is #teamkhaleesi.

If you have any questions about the CWW at AWP 2017, be sure to email us at info@cambridgewritersworkshop.org